Thursday, June 30, 2016



Strut team up for the first time with respected French label Heavenly Sweetness for the brand new album by the inspired poet, novelist and musician, Anthony Joseph. The Caribbean is an influence that runs through Joseph’s discography, obliquely or headon, suggested or on full display. It resonates on each of his albums, from the furious trance of ‘Bird Head Son’ to the more polished ‘Time’. On ‘Caribbean Roots’, he has now decided to turn a guiding thread and a reference point into a communications cable – a powerful bond that makes light of distance and braves the seas to link his island to that of his friends in the Caribbean arc, dancing to the strains of tumbélé and mendé only a few miles from Port of Spain where people live it up to rapso and soca beats. ‘Caribbean Roots’ represents a return to his roots for Anthony Joseph, who has always remained true to a powerful, deep-seated sense of his Caribbean identity. Having started out as a joint project with the outstanding percussionist Roger Raspail (Cesaria Evora, Papa Wemba, Kassav), ‘Caribbean Roots’ swiftly grew into a creative force incorporating the rhythms, sounds and vibes that rock the Caribbean from San Fernando, Scarborough, Kingston and Les Abymes to Port-au-Prince and Havana. Backed by a band made up of a blend of local musicians, the album attempts to unite the different islands into a single entity whilst ensuring that the identity of each is in no way diluted by the mix, instead creating a richer and stronger alloy. The saxophones of Shabaka Hutchings (The Heliocentrics) and Jason Yarde, the trumpet of Yvon Guillard (Magma), the bass of Mike Clinton (Salif Keita) and the trombone of Pierre Chabrèle (Creole Jazz Orchestra) all combine to form a group of Caribbean All Stars to which Andy Narrell, the master of the steel pans, brings ringing drum beats.


Fans call him 'The African Sting', writers call him a pro, but it is his unique and electrifying style of connecting with his audience that makes him what he really is - a true musician. Richard Bona's seemingly effortless voice, fierce skill on the bass, unique songwriting/arranging expertise and ability to learn just about any instrument simply from watching, position him as a rare African artist to have established an unscalable reputation on an international platform. This has led to a host of awards, along with fruitful collaborations with colleagues such as Bobby McFerrin, Pat Metheny, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon, John Legend and Stevie Wonder. Originally from Cameroon, Bona remains true to his roots on 'Heritage', his eighth album as a leader but the first with his Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano. An energetic, life-affirming and truly fantastic album, it explores the alchemy of African rhythms in Cuba. This may seem ambitious, but it sounds as natural and effortless as anything Richard Bona does; together with the Mandekan Cubano ("five A-list veterans of the Latin music scene in New York", Downbeat), he has carefully crafted a fusion of sounds that merge cultures together via their ability to speak the universal language of music.


Madcliff recorded this, their only album in 1977. Singer, Songwriter, Drummer, Bassist and Keyboardist Chris Hills wrote all of the songs, two of them with Chico Waters with whom he had co written with on Herbie Mann's Embryo label in 1971. The album has a broad range of Soul, Funk and Disco tracks. It contains the original versions of two tracks that Chris would go on to record as a member of the Players Association later the same year. The early cuts of 'I Like It' and 'Goin' To The Disco' have a more raw approach than the better known and more polished versions. The killer cut is the funk bomb 'You Can Make The Change'. This track was made popular by Keb Darge at his legendary deep funk nights. 'It Takes A Little More' was co written with Danny Weiss with whom Chris would work with as The Players Association and then as the group Feel in the early 80's. This album is one of the rarest that we have released in our classic albums series. 



It's taken us a bit longer than expected to get this second installment in Maxwell's Black Summers' Night series – but it's been well worth the wait, given the greater depth in the music! All that we love about Maxwell's previous records is alive and well here – but there's also kind of a sharper edge to the sound, too – these fuller bottom currents that almost seem to be adding a second sort of instrumental commentary, alongside the lyrical activity up top – all while the whole thing is wrapped together with that warm keyboard flow that first made Maxwell stand out so many years back! There's almost this double edge to the whole thing – rough with the smooth, or turmoil under peace – which gives the whole thing a lot more power than this sort of record from some of Maxwell's contemporaries. Score another win for the mighty one – on tracks that include "The Fall", "Lake By The Ocean", "Lost", "Gods", "Fingers Crossed", "Hostage", "1990x", and "All The Ways Love Can Feel". ~ Dusty Groove


True Stories is the 30th Anniversary release from The Rippingtons. Russ Freeman has been at the forefront of the contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, and instrumental pop music genres! They have sold over 3 Million albums to date. Every new Rippingtons album has Debuted in the Top 5 of the Billboard Jazz Chart including 4 Number 1 Debuts! With every album a new chapter has been written with their innovative songwriting, in studio production and inventive instrumentation. The Rippingtons throughout their storied history have featured an incredible array of talented musicians who have gone on to wonderful solo careers including Dave Koz, Kenny G, Paul Taylor, Kirk Whalum, and Omar Hakim. For True Stories, rejoining the Rippingtons for this milestone, is saxophonist Brandon Fields, who first performed with the band in 1986 in the pioneering breakthrough hit album, Moonlighting. My Promise features Special guest Jeffrey Osborne, who had a hit single with the Rippingtons in the mid nineties.


Fellow Creatures is the new album from the prolific and formidable bassist, bandleader and composer Jasper Høiby. This vital new project combines a strong sense of groove, driving energy with atmospheric textures and contrapuntal rhythms. It is described by London Jazz as '..fusing the infectious grooves of a Phronesis rhythm section with the off-kilter hooks of Polar Bear'. This landmark album from Jasper Høiby builds on the meteoric rise and continuing critical success of his glowing international career as one of the most creative, innovative and powerful performers, composers and bandleaders of his generation in Europe. The band includes leading lights young and old(-er) of the UK jazz scene, with Mark Lockheart on tenor sax, Laura Jurd on trumpet, Will Barry on bass and Corrie Dick on drums. Primarily known for his ongoing work with Phronesis, the trio he formed in 2005, Jasper is also one third of Malija and has performed / recorded with a number of original artists including Mark Guiliana, Django Bates, Shai Maestro, Julian Joseph, Kurt Elling, Antonio Loureiro, Tom Arthurs, Mark Lockheart, Liam Noble, Julia Biel, Marius Neset, Kairos 4tet, Jim Hart and Ivo Neame. He has appeared at jazz clubs, concert halls and festivals across the world.

Austin’s 10-Piece Collective and Purveyor of African Funk, HARD PROOF Releases PUBLIC HI FI SESSIONS 03

The award-winning 10-piece collective is the finest purveyor of African funk, world music, and jazz inspired by the sub-Saharan African continent in the state of Texas. Formed in 2008, Hard Proof features members of Black Joe Lewis, The Calm Blue Sea, Ocote Soul Sounds, Spanish Gold, The Echocentrics, and several other notable Austin acts.

Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03 is the fourth release from Jim Eno’s (Spoon) record label after three successful vinyl releases from Dupree, Dana Falconberry and Sondre Lerche. This release was recorded in two separate sessions at Eno’s Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin. What makes this release so unique is that the recording sessions were live and 100 percent analog from top to bottom. Stephen Bidwell, the drummer for Hard Proof states, “The first half of the tracks were recorded in December 2015, and Eno was teaching a class from Ohio University, so we had half a dozen ‘interns’ running around learning how to track a large group live to tape. This was sort of a no-pressure situation, but the tracks we got out of it were so solid that we knew we needed to release it. After some talking with Jim, we came back with three more songs in February 2016 and rounded out the record.” Jim Eno expresses: “I first saw Hard Proof at the Continental Club in 2012. It was an amazing show. The 10-piece band had a great feel and magnetic energy. I’d recently recorded the jazz band Dupree live to 1/2-inch tape, and it hit me that Hard Proof would be perfect for this type of project. To record live to tape, the band needs to be incredibly tight because no overdubs are possible, and no mixing occurs after tracking; the tracks are mixed as the band plays in real time. I was confident that Hard Proof could pull this off.”

The six songs on the record each pack their own punch but holistically showcase the band at a new level with its compositions and dynamic live-to-tape performances. The three main composers for the release are Derek Phelps (trumpet), Joe Sokolik (bass), and Joe Woullard (bari sax/flute). Phelps breaks down some of his inspiration and creative process around the songs he composed. He states: “For ‘The Break,’ I was on a break from playing the trumpet due to a busted lip, but that helped me break through my writer’s block, and this tune is one of the first to come out of that.” ‘Popemobile’ was built off a melodic figure created around the beginning of the band, which we played a handful of times, and then I sat on it for many years. When I knew this recording was coming up, I brought it back with a different perspective. It’s one of those simple songs that leaves a lot of room for the group’s interpretation. ‘Institution’ is about the idea of religion and the institutions it creates because I started questioning the religion I was brought up in. Being an instrumental tune, communicating something as complicated as religion is not really possible, but it can be an inspiration.”

Woullard explains his inspiration of compositional songs: “‘Painted Flowers’ is about a grocery store in Texas that sells flowers painted in bright, unnatural colors. Why would you want to paint a flower? Flowers are already beautiful as they are. Some of the prettiest ones are free, growing wild on the side of the road. ‘Revenge’ is a great tune where the ensemble locks into in an aggressive rhythm. Sparse melodies weave between percussive barks and stabs; harmony emerges as lines converge in urgent dialogue. Revenge is a cycle of tension.”

Sokolik rounds out the compositions with ‘Default,’ mentioning that, “The song is a result of an externally imposed deadline where I got to cranking out melodies and overlapping rhythm parts. After running it a few times with the band, we decided it needed to be a lot faster. Then Gerardo came up with the concept for the deceptive introduction, and we ran it in the studio until it worked.”

While Hard Proof’s releases are always well-received, there seems to be universal agreement that the band’s live shows are something not to be missed. KUTX tastemaker Laurie Gallardo put it best. “This local ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show,” she says, “an absolute blowout of nonstop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache.” Stay tuned for Hard Proof’s upcoming shows and a new full-length album later in 2016.

Side A:
1. The Break
2. Revenge
3. Default
Side B:
4. Painted Flowers
5. Institution
6. Popemobile

Hard Proof is:
Stephen Bidwell – Drums, Tommy Spampinato – Percussion, Tony Cruz – Congas, Joe Sokolik – Bass, Aaron Sleator – Guitar, Gerardo Larios - Guitar/Keyboards, John Branch – Guitar, Joe Woullard - Bari Sax/Flute, Jason Frey - Tenor Sax, Derek Phelps – Trumpet




Soaring sounds from the great Jerry Ross – a one man powerhouse on the Philly scene of the 60s – and one of the guys who was really responsible for setting the city's music scene on fire! A Jerry Ross tune is always marked by an upbeat, positive sort of vibe – a mode that works equally well on soul, rock, or pop – all of which are featured here – although even the latter two styles seem to have a bit more of a soul vibe than you might expect, as Ross was something of a blue-eyed maestro with a tune! The collection is long overdue – as Jerry's one of those guys who had a big impact at the time, but maybe wasn't as out there in the spotlight as some of his contemporaries – often just content to make magic from the other side of the studio on great tunes like these. CD features 24 cuts in all – all with detailed notes on each song – and tracks include "Love Love Love" by Bobby Hebb, "The 81" by Candy & The Kisses, "You Better Believe It Baby" by Chubby Checker, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by Dee Dee Warwick, "Some Kinda Magic" by Jerry Butler, "Together" by The Modern Ink Spots, "Eeny Meeny" by The Showstoppers, "He's No Ordinary Guy" by Dee Dee Sharp, "You Gave Me Somebody To Love" by The Sidekicks, "Daylight Savin Time" by Sandy Edmonds, "These Will Be The Good Old Days" by The Dreamlovers, "Gonna Be A Big Thing" by The Yum Yums, "Help Yourself" by Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, "I've Got Mine You Better Get Yours" by The Sapphires, and "You Don't Know What You Got" by Willie Hobbs. ~ Dusty Groove


A soul and funk fan's dream come true – never-heard recordings by the legendary Betty Davis, done for Columbia Records a few years before her debut album! At the time, Betty was hanging with Miles Davis, and turning him onto the sounds of fuzzy funk – and Miles actually produced these recordings, and used instrumentation from key associates like Herbie Hancock on keyboards, Wayne Shorter on reeds, and John McLaughlin on guitar – plus the mighty Larry Young on keyboards! The whole thing's amazing – every bit as great as Betty's work for the Just Sunshine label, but maybe even grittier – and with this unbridled vibe that's totally wonderful – and we're stunned that this is the first we're hearing of this music – but are mighty happy it's finally seen the light of day. A few cuts also feature Davis with The Crusaders and Hugh Masekela – for a groovy Cali soul sort of vibe – and titles include "It's My Life", "Hangin Out", "Politician Man", "Down Home Girl", "I'm Ready Willing & Able", "Born On The Bayou", and "Live Love Learn".  ~ Dusty Groove


It's easy to give the great Freddie Redd due respect – especially when the pianist sounds every bit as wonderful here as he did on his classic Blue Note albums from decades back! Freddie's a hell of a pianist, with a very unique vibe – able to be modern in conception, but lyrical in execution – sharp edges and angles warmed with a sense of humanity that always has Redd's music making this beautifully inherent sense, and drawing us right in, right away! The same seems to also be the case for his sidemen – who really flower in the setting – a lineup that includes John Mosca on trombone, Chris Byars on alto and flute, and Stefano Doglioni on bass clarinet. Mosca's trombone is especially nice – a real treat to hear in Redd's music – and titles include "A Night In Nalen", "Reminiscing", "Blue Hue", "I'm Gonna Be Happy", "OD", "Ole", "Lady J Blues", and "Melanie". ~ Dusty Groove

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oporto soul sister Marta Ren & The Groovelvets release a new single and kicks off the Euro Summer tour

Record Kicks is proud to present you "Release Me" the new single by Oporto soul queen Marta Ren & The Groovelvets' that will hit the streets next Friday 01 July.  "Release me" is the second single from Marta Ren's heavily acclaimed debut LP "Stop, Look Listen" that came out on February 2016 on Record Kicks. The album has gained international support by Radios like BBC 6, FIP (Radio France), KCRW (Los Angeles), Triple J (Australia) and from djs such as Craig Charles (BBC6), Dj Monk (Wax Poetics), Eddie Piller (Acid Jazz Records), Francis Viel (Mouv/Radio France). "Release Me" comes together with a new spectacular video shot by director Marco Oliveira at Oporto Psychiatric Hospital and that features a cameo of Portuguese poet and rockstar Adolfo Luxúria Canibal famous to be the singer of portuguese band Mão Morta and French art group Mécanosphère.

Marta Ren is not a newcomer as she has been around in the Portuguese scene since the mid 90s lending her deep and powerful voice, amongst others, to break-beat outfit The Bombazines, recording two albums and establishing her unique talent at clubs and festivals all around Portugal. But Marta's passion has always been for the deepest funk and rawest soul of the sixties, and now the time has come for her to show the world her immense talent. With a powerful voice that would make the founding soul sisters proud, Marta Ren is looking to rule the world and make herself a household name.

Marta Ren and her supertight Groovelvets will be on tour this Summer and next Autumn, here are the first dates:

29/06 RPop Festival - La Roche Sur Yon (FR)
21/07  Edp Cool Jazz Festival - Oeiras (FR)
26/07 Festival des Cultures du Monde - Chambéry (FR)
04/08 Euroyeye Festival - Gijón (ES)
11/08 O Sol Da Caparica Festival - Costa Da Caparica (PT)
20/08 Festins Festival – Alcaíns (PT)
26/08 The Blues Kitchen - London (UK)
27/08 The Volks – Brighton (UK)
21/10 Rome TBA (IT)
22/10 Milan TBA (IT)


Harold López-Nussa Brings Eclectic Sounds & Culture of Cuba to the World Stage on El Viaje

"El Viaje (The Journey)," the title track of Cuban pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa's debut release on Mack Avenue Records, seems to sway gently like a boat in the water--as if readying for a voyage or returning to port after arrival--trumpet and voices whispering memories. This scene aptly describes López-Nussa's experiences of traveling throughout the world, yet always finding his way back to his hometown of Havana, Cuba. This journey of body and spirit has led simultaneously to a musical exploration where he visits various genres and ideas while staying true to his foundational roots.

The release of López-Nussa's music stateside is a significant postscript to President Obama's recent trip to Havana. The conservatory-trained pianist is the first Cuba-based musician (he has dual citizenship in both Cuba and France) to release an album internationally since the lifting of many of the restrictions associated with the longstanding trade embargo. States Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell, "Harold follows in the modern day tradition of exemplary Cuban pianists who have recorded and toured internationally. We feel he is an emerging artist with immense creative potential to breakthrough."

El Viaje features The Harold López-Nussa Trio with younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion and from Senegal, Alune Wade on bass and vocals. This trio is augmented on certain tracks with guests including his father Ruy Francisco López-Nussa on drums, Mayquel González on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Dreiser Durruthy and Adel González on percussion.

López-Nussa, who collaborated with Wade on the 2015 album Havana-Paris-Dakar, noted: "Having a non-Cuban musician on this recording speaks to our contact with other cultures. Especially with African culture, which is so far from ours geographically and yet so close. Every time we play, I believe we enter into a journey we are creating," he says, speaking from his home in Havana. "Ever since I was a kid, since I began to study piano, music, I have tried; I have searched for that journey of the mind, always traveling with music. I remember that I started playing 'El Viaje' while on tour as a way of feeling closer to home, and when I'm here, it's also a way for my mind to travel."

López-Nussa was born into a musical family in Havana on July 13, 1983. Not only are his father and uncle--Ernán, a pianist--working musicians, but his late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher. At the age of eight, López-Nussa began studying at the Manuel Saumell Elementary School of Music, then the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory and finally graduating with a degree in classical piano from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA). "I studied classical music and that's all I did until I was 18," he says. Then came jazz.

"Jazz was scary. Improvisation was scary. That idea of not knowing what you are going to play..." he says, his voice trailing off. "At school I learned the works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and then it was all very clear. That permanent risk in which jazz musicians find themselves in all the time was terrifying-of course, now I find myself in that risk all the time."

Other compositions on the album speak of places on the map and the past -- "Me voy pa' Cuba (I´m Goin´ to Cuba)," "Inspiración en Connecticut (Inspiration in Connecticut)," "Oriente," "Africa," and Chucho Valdés´ classic "Bacalao Con Pan (Cod on Bread)." Throughout, the music is muscular, elegant, familiar and fresh, rooted in Cuban tradition yet permeated by different accents.

In "Feria (Fair)" the sound of what could be a Cuban neighborhood dance party takes on an African groove before becoming a New York story with Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" as its soundtrack. "Lobo's cha," a bolero with a hint of Parisian melancholy, almost imperceptibly becomes a modern cha-cha-cha. There are no instrumental gymnastics, no look-at-me solos here, just clarity and purpose-and understated brilliance. Even as López-Nussa brings his experiences elsewhere back home, Havana never becomes just a backdrop. This is a recording made in Havana. For him, the city, its sounds and its people are a point of departure--and return.

"I've always liked the idea of projecting myself to the world from here," he says. "The personal ties are very strong for me. A lot ties me to this country," he said. "I want this to be my place to create--even if I can have those great experiences traveling. The personal is essential for my creative process. Being able to go out into the neighborhood where I grew up, a place that I know so well, walk on the Malecón, sit by the sea. This is where I want to be."

López-Nussa has moved with ease between the classical, popular and jazz music worlds. A quick look at his experiences reveal a recording of Heitor Villa-Lobos´ "Fourth Piano Concerto" with Cuba's National Symphony Orchestra (2003) but also winning the First Prize and Audience Prize of the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, in 2005. He was part of projects as diverse as Ninety Miles (a recording with David Sánchez, Christian Scott and Stefon Harris) and Esencial (an album of compositions by revered Cuban classical guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer), both in 2011.

As for his popular music and on-the-job training, he was part of projects such as the Cuba volume of Rhythms del Mundo, which paired him with veterans from Buena Vista Social Club and he spent three years in the touring band of singer Omara Portuondo, an opportunity he calls "a blessing." He has distilled all those experiences not only into a rich, personal style, as a player and composer, but it infused López-Nussa with an engaging attitude about making and sharing music.

Harold López-Nussa · El Viaje
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: September 9,  2016

Jazz-Rock Fusion Band Project Grand Slam To Release New Single “The Rescue” from the inspired new album, “The Queen’s Carnival”

Project Grand Slam, the acclaimed jazz-rock fusion band led by bassist/composer Robert Miller, will be releasing the first single from their upcoming full-length album, “The Queen’s Carnival”, on July 1. This single, “The Rescue”, draws from a variety of influences and highlights Miller’s unique approach to blending jazz and rock into a totally new sound. While mostly instrumental, the new album features a guest appearance by vocalist Lucy Woodward on Robert’s completely reimagined cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” and will be released on August 19 via CEN/RED Distribution, a division of Sony Music.

“The Rescue” features Project Grand Slam exploring an infectious funk groove, but Miller says the song did not start off that way. “This was the final song that I wrote for the new album,” he notes. “I started off thinking about “Crossroads” by Cream, which is one of my all-time favorite live rock songs.” But as Miller and the band worked on the song it morphed into a kind of James Brown style funk meets jazz-rock fusion tune. “I’m so pleased with the way this one came out”, adds Miller. “The Rescue” has been a fixture of recent Project Grand Slam live shows and is already a proven crowd favorite.

Following the successful 2015 release of their third album, “Made in New York”, which featured the hit songs “New York City Groove” and “Fire”, Robert’s highly acclaimed reimagined cover of Jimi Hendrix’s classic, Project Grand Slam returns with “The Queen’s Carnival”. This exciting and fresh take on jazz-rock fusion (Miller calls “The Queen’s Carnival” a post-fusion record) features eleven tracks, including nine original songs by Robert and both vocal and instrumental versions of the Kinks’ classic, “You Really Got Me.” This continues Project Grand Slam’s tradition of reinventing popular classic rock songs as jazz-rock fusion and featuring vocal and instrumental versions of the cover track. “I think that people can relate to covers of popular songs, and it’s very cool to try and reimagine them in a way that is both true to the original but which takes the song to a whole other level”, says Robert.

Project Grand Slam — the brainchild of bassist/leader/composer Robert Miller — continues to create and perform their brand of jazz-rock fusion at the highest level.

PGS’s third album, “Made In New York”, was released in September 2015 and featured two hit singles, “New York City Groove” (Robert’s love letter to his NYC home) and “Fire” (Robert’s re-imagined version of the Jimi Hendrix classic).  Both singles featured 2013 “The Voice” semi-finalist Kat Robichaud on vocals. The band and Kat also filmed videos for “Groove” and “Fire” that have been viewed over 150,000 times to date. The reviews of the album and “Fire” were incredible, with words like “fantastic”, “damn fine album” and “hard to resist” for the album, and “superb”, “brilliant”, “excellent”, “stunning” and “unbelievable gem” for “Fire”.

Robert originally formed Project Grand Slam in 2007. PGS’s first two celebrated albums, “Play” (2008) and “Spring Dance” (2012), had two top radio singles — “The Captain Of Her Heart” (feat. Judie Tzuke on vocals) from Play, and “Catch You Later” from Spring Dance. The band also had a featured role in the hit NBC-TV series “Lipstick Jungle” starring Brooke Shields and Kim Raver, with five of the band’s tunes featured in the soundtrack.

Upcoming Tour Dates:
July 15 @ Kirby Performing Arts Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA
July 23 @ The Groove, NYC
August 11 @ Tin Angel in Philadelphia
August 12 @ Garcia's at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY (after YES)
August 20 @ The Groove, NYC


Genre-Warping Pianist Uri Caine Continues to Reinvent the Jazz Trio Format on Calibrated Thickness

Uri Caine is best known as a genre-warping, restlessly inventive pianist and sonic thinker whose every project is as predictably unpredictable as the last. But the piano trio remains a touchstone for Caine, who returns regularly to apply his expansive imagination to that core jazz format. On his latest album, Calibrated Thickness, Caine debuts a new trio with two longtime collaborators: drummer Clarence Penn and bassist Mark Helias.

"There's a lot of freedom in the piano trio," Caine says. "It's very open and loose. We keep the structure together, but within that I like the freedom it offers."

Though the title is a phrase that Caine stumbled across in a technical manual, Calibrated Thickness vividly captures the sense of controlled dynamics and calculated density that this trio so ably masters. The album's 15 songs are in a sense a distillation of the musical identity that Caine, Penn and Helias have forged over the last few years as a trio (in addition to many more in different contexts). Live, Caine's memorable compositions are landmarks that the trio happens upon in the course of lengthy improvisations, fluidly morphing from one tune to the next at a moment's whim.

On Calibrated Thickness, the tunes are presented in a more pristine fashion, showcasing Caine's gift for witty, agile melodies, inspiring structures and wide-ranging stylistic approaches. The short pieces (few of which top five minutes) give the trio the opportunity to spark concise, focused improvisations from the flint of the leader's well-honed compositions. "When you're playing and writing music you're always calibrating how to build it or structure it or form it," Caine explains.

The relationship between Caine and Penn dates back a couple of decades, most notably in trumpeter Dave Douglas' quintet that also featured saxophonists Chris Potter or Donny McCaslin and bassist James Genus. The pianist came to work with Helias through their shared tenure in Don Byron's band. Joining the trio on three tracks is the ingenious cornetist Kirk Knuffke, whose sharp, probing sound adds an extra edge to the pieces on which he appears.

Caine offers a straightforward, no-nonsense reason for assembling this particular trio, his first release in that guise since 2011's Siren with bassist John Hébert and drummer Ben Perowsky. "I like the sound," he says, a simple enough proposition but one that can be maddeningly elusive. "I like the way Clarence accompanies and sets things up; Mark has a really warm sound and is really flexible. There's a lot of room to move with them."

The 15 Caine originals contained on Calibrated Thickness run the gamut of styles, from jagged, angular modern pieces to more straight-ahead swingers that harken back to Caine's early days playing hard bop in Philadelphia (albeit with his usual idiosyncratic twists and turns) to more lyrical, ballad-inspired playing that spotlights the warm expressiveness that sometimes gets eclipsed by his bold eclecticism.

The album kicks off with the powerful, rollicking swing of "Manahatta," titled for the original Lenni Lenape name for the island at the epicenter of the jazz world. "Woke Up This Morning" uses a blues cliché to label a piece of pure, rattletrap abstraction that depicts the trio's explosive spontaneous interplay. That tune contrasts sharply with the shimmering, delicate "Icicles," highlighted by Helias' moving lyricism, eventually consumed by the tune's surging roar.

Knuffke makes his first appearance on the zigzagging "Submission," while "Golem" offers a round of broad-shouldered, barrelhouse swing. "Bleeding Heart" is remarkably hushed and intimate, the album's quietest, most delicate moment despite building with nervous intensity. "Night Wrestler" is bright and buoyant, "Climb To the Top" barbed and dissonant." Knuffke returns to provide darting, keen-edged lines on "Hidden Glances," while "Scatterbrain Suite" offers a slapstick soundtrack for an imaginary silent film.

Caine's playing on "He Said She" sparkles with classical elegance and hymn-like simplicity, while "Sticks and Stones" dances with brisk soulfulness. Helias' tense, scraping bowed bass pairs with Penn's jittery rhythms to give "Time in Between" its frenetic urgency, while "Shadow of a Doubt" kicks off with an odd-angled dialogue between Caine and Knuffke. "Downward Spiral" brings the album to a close with a nimble, circling figures that draw an aural picture of the title.

"I wanted to include all these different styles of playing trio," Caine says of Calibrated Thickness. Despite being a more traditional setting than many of the pianist's projects--his eccentric, style-smashing reimaginings of classical repertoire come immediately to mind--the piano trio offers no less opportunity for Caine to show off his broad-spectrum tastes and approaches.

From his early days backing soul-jazz horn players in Philly nightclubs through his convention-defying work with Downtown New York avant-gardists and adventurous classical ensembles to his always-surprising catalogue as a leader, all facets of Caine's diverse artistry are contained herein.

Uri Caine · Calibrated Thickness · Release Date: August 12, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Henry Stone Music album featuring the Lemon City Rhythm Section “Instrumental Magic 2”

Continuing the legacy of benevolence that began ten years ago when the late music industry legend Henry Stone discovered blind saxophonist Jeff Zavac and featured him on “Instrumental Magic,” generating over one million dollars in contributions to the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind - the organization that came to the aid of the renowned record pioneer when he lost his vision in his later years - Henry Stone Music released the second collection on Friday. “Instrumental Magic 2,” showcasing Zavac with the Lemon City Rhythm Section and produced by Stone’s son, Joe Stone, and guitarist Aaron Fishbein, spotlights the saxman rendering soul-jazz interpretations of ten hits written or made classic by sightless artists including Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, Jose Feliciano and Ray Charles, the last of whom was first recorded by Henry Stone in the 1950s.      
The five-piece Lemon City Rhythm Section – Zavac (sax, flute, woodwinds), Fishbein (guitar), Jerald Dorsett (keyboards), Shaka Pace (bass) and King David Hill (drums) – will perform music from “Instrumental Magic 2” at jazz hotspot Ball & Chain in the Little Havana section of Miami on Monday, June 27 at 6:30pm. Tickets are free while donations to the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind will be accepted at the venue and online at

Henry Stone, who forged an enduring legacy in R&B, dance and rap music prior to his 2014 passing at the age of 93, launched the “Instrumental Magic” series with the goal of creating modern American music with a classic American feel. Joe Stone was inspired to continue his father’s mission of positivity by promoting music recorded by live players while raising awareness and funds for the association that taught his father how to live without sight.

“Henry lost his sight in the last decade of his journey here on earth and Miami Lighthouse was a huge part of his ability to move forward,” said Stone, general manager of Henry Stone Music. “It is an honor and a joy to work with this group of very talented musicians on an important production that carries on the Henry Stone legacy. Musically, ‘Instrumental Magic 2’ creates a sonic palette filled with funk, soul, salsa, rock, R&B and jazz covering American standards loved the world over."

The first “Instrumental Magic” disc, one of the last albums produced by Henry Stone, paired Zavac with 1970s soul queen Gwen McCrae. The record remains one of the Henry Stone Music label’s most popular releases having received millions of plays on Spotify alone.
After losing his eyesight during cataract surgery while in his 80s, Stone turned to Miami Lighthouse for the Blind where he learned to adapt. In an effort to “repay” the organization that helped him, Stone facilitated a million dollar donation that funded the creation of a recording studio for the blind now named in his honor. His act of leadership and philanthropy garnered the inaugural Man of Vision Award in 2008 from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, which provides vision rehabilitation and eye health services that promote independence, educates professionals and conducts research in related fields. For additional information, please visit    

“Instrumental Magic 2” contains the following songs:
“Hey Baby”
“I Got A Woman”
“Night Time Is The Right Time”
“I Just Called To Say I Love You”
“Isn’t She Lovely”
“I Wish”
“There’s No Gettin’ Over Me”
“Feliz Navidad”
“America The Beautiful”

Australian Pianist/Vocalist Matt Baker Calls New York City Home on Latest Album Almost Blue

Pianist Matt Baker's new recording, Almost Blue, is his fifth as a leader and second since 2010 when he moved to New York City from Sydney, Australia. Baker abandoned a comfortable career to position himself in the pool of big fish who leave an international array of smaller ponds to test their mettle in the jazz capital. That it was a wise decision is evident: Baker--well-known in Australia and Europe during the '00s for an approach deeply informed by Oscar Peterson, his idol and first influence in matters of intention, execution and time feel--interacts seamlessly with young New York A-listers Luques Curtis on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums, placing his exhaustive knowledge of chords and scales and stylistic dialects at the service of swinging melody without letting you see him sweat. Master guitarist Lage Lund augments the unit on six selections, while formidable tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm projects his singular instrumental voice on three.

The intersection of Baker's musical and personal journeys in New York is the subject of the 14-tune program, which Baker and eminent producer Matt Pierson culled from the Great American and late 20th Century Pop Songbooks. "I chose these songs because of the lyrics," Baker says. "Each one represents a certain place in my life during the period that led up to the recording. They convey the album's narrative, and have equal weight as pieces in the story."

Speaking of narrative, Baker sings on three selections, presenting his vulnerable emotionally connected voice. "I've been singing for 20 years, and singing will always be there, but playing the piano is strongest in my heart," says Baker, whose latest encomium is Back Stage magazine's 2016 Ira Eaker Special Achievement Award, given to "an outstanding performer on the rise."

In 2016, a worldwide audience can witness the fruits of Baker's New York R&D as he supports Almost Blue with a new trio, including Ahmad Jamal alumnus James Cammack on bass, and the crackling young drummer Darrian Douglas. "Since coming here, I feel I've begun to play with the band as opposed to having them accompany me," Baker says. "I feel that Darrian, James and I are creating whatever it is we do-various meters and rhythmic complexities, harmonic development, textural development--in the moment together."

The son of a jazz trombone player with a good record collection, Baker started jazz lessons at 12, and at 15-years-old he took a once-a-week gig "at a café close to my school that had a piano," which he retained until his twenties. During his final year at Sydney Conservatory, he spent several months in New York, where he encountered and took lessons from such piano heroes as James Williams, Benny Green and Jacky Terrasson. "Friends in Sydney were forcefully telling me I had to get to New York," Baker recalls. "I started to realize what I didn't know and what I had to learn, and I felt pressure--in a good way--to up my game and not get comfortable."
Baker recorded Talkin' Soul Food a week after returning to Sydney from another trip to New York, taken with the express intent of hearing every set by Peterson during a week-long engagement at the Blue Note. During that week Peterson befriended the intense, well-mannered youngster, and he remained Baker's friend and mentor for the remainder of his life, a fact that Baker honors with a still ongoing program devoted to Peterson's original music.

On the strength of that recording, Baker brought his trio to the 2003 Montreux Jazz Festival to serve as house band for its entire 2½-week duration. Festival founder and artistic director, the late Claude Nobs brought the trio back the next year, and had Baker play solo piano for the 2005 and 2006 editions. Baker represented his Swiss experience--which gave him an opportunity to meet and pick the brains of an international array of jazz celebrities, such as Herbie Hancock and Michel Camilo--with the 2006 trio and chamber orchestra album From An Afternoon With the Mountains.

With a year's savings as a cushion, Baker spent his first year in New York networking at such jam session hubs as Smalls, Fat Cat, Cleopatra's Needle, and Smoke, where he "hung out, listened, gave out the business card, and had stacks of people not call me," while also studying with pianist Taylor Eigsti, whom he met on a 2009 New York visit. In 2011, Baker self-recorded Underground, with top-shelf generational contemporaries: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Greg Hutchinson. He spent the next four years building a solid career, side-manning with, among others, 7-string guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and vocalists Tierney Sutton, Judy Collins and Patrizio Buanne, and refining his own repertoire presentation in diverse rooms like Birdland, the Blue Note, Iridium, Kitano, Gin Fizz, Bemelmans, Le Cirque, the Zinc Bar, the Side Door and Scullers Jazz Clubs.


New Video From The New Album of Miles Davis Recordings Reimagined by Robert Glasper - EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL; Watch the Erykah Badu-Directed Video For "Maiysha (So Long)"...

Longtime friends, collaborators and Grammy-winning musicians Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper have teamed up again for the track & video for "Maiysha (So Long)", from new album Everything's Beautiful--the visionary exploration of Miles Davis' music, featuring reimagined interpretations of his music produced by Glasper. The track's lyrics were written by Badu, and were based on "Maiysha" by Davis.

The video, entitled "So Long...That's What She Said," which Badu describes as having the feel of a short film, was conceptualized, written and directed by Badu. In keeping with the song's deceptively humorous lyrics, the "short" is a somewhat satirical wink at the musical performances from the classic variety shows of the '50s and '60s. The video stars a neurotic, beatnik chanteuse named Sarah Bellam--one of Badu's many personas--with Glasper as her tormented keyboard player and lover. The video also features a cameo by acclaimed harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet as the trumpet player performing Miles Davis' solo. The supporting musicians include Rashad "Ringo" Smith, drums, and Braylon Lacy, bass.

The "short" was co-produced by Badu's own Control Freaq Media and long-time collaborators Coodie and Chike of Creative Control, the team behind Badu's 2010 acclaimed and controversial "Window Seat" music video. In support of the video's release, Badu and Control Freaq Media have crafted a unique digital marketing campaign that includes a series of movie inspired posters, animated GIFs, and exclusive bonus content announced on Badu's social media platforms. Watch the video here:

Everything's Beautiful is out now and is part of Columbia/Legacy's commemoration of the globally renowned music innovator's 90(th) birthday. Released in late-May, the album debuted at #1 on Billboard's Jazz Album chart, and first week sales saw Davis charting the highest he ever has on the R&B Album Chart (#5), R&B/Hip Hop Album Chart (#10) and the Tastemaker Album Chart (#17).

The album is a beautifully crafted collection produced by Glasper, blending a diverse group of master takes and outtakes from across the incomparable Miles Davis Columbia catalog with an impressive lineup of contemporary artists and musicians to create original interpretations. Some of the featured guest artists on Everything's Beautiful include Illa J, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Phonte, Hiatus Kaiyote, Laura Mvula, KING, Georgia Ann Muldrow, John Scofield, Ledisi, DJ Spinna and Stevie Wonder.

Everything's Beautiful is unlike any other in Davis' discography. From the familiar (riffs and passages within the catalog) to the obscure (samples of Miles' in-studio instructions spoken after false starts), Glasper has built something unique but still unquestionably Miles. The album was executive produced with members of Davis' family--Erin Davis, Cheryl Davis and Vince Wilburn, Jr. from Miles Davis Properties, LLC. The cover art was created by Francine Turk and integrates elements of Miles Davis' artwork. With the cover, Turk creates a visual that is similar to the idea of Robert Glasper taking fragments of Miles music and reinterpreting in a unique and modern way. Everything's Beautiful is available now via iTunes ( and at the official Miles Davis store on

Erykah Badu is a four-time GRAMMY award-winning singer, songwriter and producer who also describes herself as a "DJ, director, activist, holistic healer, doula, veggie, bgirl, observer, and hustler." Regarded as the Queen of Neo Soul, Badu's sound--a concoction of soul, hip-hop and jazz--cannot be confined to a single genre. She has released five universally acclaimed studio albums and one live album. Last November, Badu released her first collection of songs in five years with the mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone, which included her viral take on Drake's "Hotline Bling" as well as a collaboration with Andre 3000. This summer, Badu appears in The Land, a film that debuted at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

01. "Talking S***"
02. "Ghetto Walkin" featuring Bilal
03. "They Can't Hold Me Down" featuring Illa J
04. "Maiysha (So Long)" featuring Erykah Badu
05. "Violets" featuring Phonte
06. "Little Church" featuring Hiatus Kaiyote
07. "Silence Is The Way" featuring Laura Mvula
08. "Song For Selim" featuring KING
09. "Milestones" featuring Georgia Ann Muldrow
10. "I'm Leaving You" featuring John Scofield and Ledisi
11. "Right On Brotha" featuring Stevie Wonder

Guitarist Ken Hatfield Releases Book/CD 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar

Award-winning composer and guitarist Ken Hatfield's 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar (Arthur Circle Music) exhibits the imagination, creativity, and formidable technique that have become Ken's trademark and have earned him widespread recognition as a musician of extraordinary talent and originality. In 2006 the ASCAP Foundation honored Ken with its prestigious Vanguard Award in recognition of his "innovative and distinctive music that is charting new directions in jazz." Ken's new book/CD 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar provides a captivating glimpse into his musical world for fans and fellow guitarists alike.

Some may question releasing a book/CD package in the digital age. Given that composers naturally want other musicians to perform their works, and considering how-from Sergei Rachmaninoff to Thelonious Monk-composers' performances of their own works have often been revealing, insightful, and enjoyable, Hatfield has chosen this format for his latest release. Although the book and CD are sold together, fans can also purchase the CD separately, exclusively at

While Ken is best known as a jazz musician, his choice of the classical guitar as his primary instrument and his many compositional commissions have found him with a foot frequently planted in the classical world. This dual musical personality has become a prominent enough feature of Hatfield's recent compositional work that some now associate him with the Third Stream musical movement championed by the late Gunther Schuller. In many respects 12 Preludes for Solo Guitar is as much an embodiment of this musical dual citizenship as it is a reflection of the guitar's unique harmonic capacities in a solo acoustic context.

Preludes are one of the earliest examples of a style or form developed specifically for instrumental music. Historically, they have served as introductions, at least until Chopin began writing stand-alone preludes. In their stand-alone capacity, Ken's preludes belong to Chopin's tradition.

There is a long established practice of improvising preludes. Classical musicians of earlier eras routinely improvised preludes as introductions to larger movements or pieces, just as many jazz musicians today improvise introductions to the standards that make up a large part of their repertoire. Hatfield's preludes are designed to use these traditions as a springboard to explore harmonic ideas and relationships, as well as techniques and the sonorities of the nylon string guitar, while investigating a variety of styles and forms ranging from Baroque (Prelude 3), to Samba in 3 (Prelude 6), to blues-based forms and content (Prelude 4), to rhapsodic serenades (Prelude 11), to modern uses of dissonance and odd meters (Prelude 9). The results will enchant both player and listener.

Besides their pedagogical value, these preludes also reflect an ongoing concern that Hatfield has addressed in much of his recent compositional work-the nexus between the through composed and the improvised, and how any distinction between the two is perceived by one listening to a recorded performance. While at one level such concerns are about process, it is through such explorations of process that these preludes came into existence. Some of them feel like improvisations, while others feel like recited works. It is in the places where these approaches reveal themselves to be far less divergent than is often assumed, that the inspiration for these marvelous musical gems originated.

Sometimes tragedy can be the impetus for creative catharsis. Many in the guitar world, including Ken, were shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of world-renowned luthier Thomas Humphrey in 2008. In some very real ways, the remarkable 1991 Humphrey Millennium guitar that Ken plays on the recording of these preludes inspired their creation as a testament to the genius of his late friend.

Many things are required to create a musical project like this one. Everything from inspiration to hard work to the application of skills and knowledge must come together. Yet in the final analysis the music must speak for itself. Any and all who listen attentively will find that these 12 Preludes speak as eloquently of life and love as they do of joy and loss.

Ken Hatfield''s compositional experience covers a wide range of styles and instrumentations. In addition to composing jazz works for his own ensembles, he has written chamber pieces that range from solo classical guitar to mixed ensembles of various sizes. He has composed choral works and ballet scores, including commissioned works for Judith Jamison, the Washington Ballet Company, and the Maurice Béjart Ballet Company. And he has written scores for television and film, including Eugene Richards' award-winning documentary, but, the day came. Arthur Circle Music has published six books of Hatfield's compositions, and in 2005 Mel Bay published his book Jazz and the Classical Guitar: Theory and Application, which is designed to demonstrate Ken's unique approach to playing jazz on a classical guitar. Ken has released nine CDs as a leader on the Arthur Circle Music label. All feature him performing his original compositions, five in ensemble settings.

In addition to performing as a solo artist and with his ensembles at prestigious venues such as The JVC Jazz Festival, The Knitting Factory, The Classic American Guitar Show, The Smithsonian Jazz Café, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Whitney Sculpture Court, and the North Wales International Jazz Guitar Festival, Hatfield has performed and/or recorded with artists and ensembles as diverse as The New York Pops, Charlie Byrd, Jack McDuff, Chico Hamilton, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Aznavour, Bob Cranshaw, Grady Tate, Harold Mabern, Marcus Miller, Kenny Kirkland, Dom Salvador, Claudio Roditi, João Donato, Duduka da Fonseca, Marlena Shaw, and Toni Braxton.

Saxophonist WILL VINSON Celebrates PERFECTLY OUT OF PLACE Coast To Coast

Alto saxophonist and composer Will Vinson will continue the celebration of his sixth album, and his debut for 5Passion, Perfectly Out of Place, with dates on both coasts, July 16 at The Blue Whale in Los Angeles, followed by July 25 at The 55 Bar in NYC!

Vinson possesses many gifts; incredible power, dramatic sensitivity, prodigious technique, and perhaps most importantly, a captivating sound that you want to hear again and again. John Fordham of The Guardian described a "superb solo of rugged leathery sounds turning into mellifluous high notes", with "secure control and storming energy". While JazzWise Magazine has said that Vinson has a knack for "combining a thoughtful originality of conception with energy and fluidity of execution in very satisfying proportions". It is this abundance of qualities that has made Vinson a serious part of the conversation when talk turns towards modern jazz musicians who are playing and composing with a high level of originality and artistry. In addition to being an acclaimed bandleader with five recordings under his own name, Vinson is a member of several leading ensembles: Gonzalo Rubalcaba's Quintet (appearing on the Grammy nominated albums Suite Caminos, and Charlie), Ari Hoenig's Punk Bop and Nonet, Miguel Zenon's Identities Orchestra (Grammy nominated for Identities are Changeable), and the much lauded OWL Trio (with Lage Lund and Orlando le Fleming). Vinson has also toured/recorded with Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens, Sean Lennon, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton and Harper Simon.

Will Vinson is proud to announce the release of his debut recording for 5Passion and his sixth overall, Perfectly Out of Place, featuring an all-star group comprised of Mike Moreno on guitar, Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums.  Perfectly Out of Place follows a string of inspired albums from Vinson: It's For You (Sirocco Jazz, 2004, "an auspicious debut, an album that is as mature in its conception as it is in its execution" - The NYC Jazz Record, formerly AAJ New York), Promises (NineteenEight Records, described as "impressive" and "coolly restrained" by Nate Chinen of The New York Times), The World (Through My Shoes) (a live recording called "marvelous" by DownBeat Magazine and "exhilarating, cascading ... outstanding" by JazzTimes), Stockholm Syndrome (2010, Criss Cross Records), and Live at Smalls (2013), one of the most successful albums on the Smalls Live label.

With Perfectly Out of Place Vinson felt ambitious. This album contains more-than-usual through-composed music from the saxophonist's pen, and also marks his first use of overdubs, synthesizers, vocals and strings. His aim was to enhance and augment his Quintet's sound (featured on Vinson's previous five albums) that many fans and critics have come to know and love. Vinson elaborated in the album's liner notes, "It was an exciting prospect for me, but one that was made challenging by the stubborn insistence of everyone in the band on making everything sound immediately perfect and unimprovable . . . you get what you pay for, I suppose. I've tried to add without inadvertently taking away, and I hope you feel it's been a success." He added, "The entirety of this project, from the music's conception in the mountains of Banff, Alberta; through the joyous session at Avatar (to my knowledge the world's greatest recording studio), has been a thrill. One that I'd be happy to go through again, if it weren't for the fact that this record is now complete and in the hands of the most important person in the process, the listener."

Vinson's collaborators on Perfectly Out of Place include four of the world's most extraordinary improvising musicians, Mike Moreno, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Matt Penman and Jeff Ballard. "Their importance to this project cannot be overstated, each one of them being irreplaceable. It's fair to say that my personal aesthetic identity would not be quite what it is without the influence of these masters over the past (gulp) two decades," said Vinson. The saxophonist also felt exceptionally fortunate to be able to enlist Jamey Haddad (heard on "Skyrider"), Jo Lawry (heard on "Desolation Tango" & "Skyrider"), and the Mivos Quartet (heard on "Desolation Tango", "Skyrider", "Intro to Limp of Faith") to contribute to this project. "Jamey's vibe and generosity of spirit are legendary, and his playing joyous and infectious. It's hard to think of anyone other than Jo who would have the chops, not to mention relished the challenge, to achieve what was asked of her in this recording. I first heard Mivos right at the time I was beginning to consider using strings on this project. They performed Steve Reich's Different Trains and completely blew me away", said Vinson.

On Perfectly Out of Place, the listener gets unadulterated "Will Vinson music"; which not only means playing and composing that combines a great knowledge and respect for the century-long jazz tradition, with explorations into the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic realms of contemporary forms, but this artist's brilliant vision brought to life with great skill and unmitigated passion.   
Tracks: 1. Desolation Tango, 2. Upside, 3. Willoughby General, 4. Skyrider, 5. Intro To Limp of Faith, 6. Limp of Faith, 7. Stiltskin (Some Drunk Funk), 8. Chalk It Up, 9. The Clock Killer, 10. Perfectly Out of Place

All compositions by Will Vinson. Produced by Will Vinson and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

John Beasley presents MONK'estra, Volume 1: Thelonious Monk's Legacy Reimagined with Big Band

John Beasley has shared stages with some of the most important names in jazz during his three-decade career. From his days as a member of Freddie Hubbard's quintet and one of Miles Davis' last touring bands to his role as Music Director for Jazz Day galas for the Thelonious Monk Institute, Beasley has had a first-hand involvement with the genre's never-ending evolution.

Thelonious Monk is a Mount Rushmore figure in the creation of modern jazz. As the centennial of his birth rapidly approaches, Beasley--pianist, conductor and arranger--has grappled with the complex composer's legacy with his versatile big band riffing on the wit and unmistakable architecture of the Monk songbook with irrepressible energy and swinging abandon on presents MONK'estra, Volume 1, available August 19 on Mack Avenue Records.

The album and band have its roots in a commission from Los Angeles's Luckman Jazz Orchestra. When the gig was over, Beasley felt inspired to search deeper and continued to write more arrangements long after the performance, eventually assembling some of the finest musicians in Los Angeles to bring the charts to life in a musician's union rehearsal room.

Amassing enough arrangements and developing a signature feel, he took the band public at Los Angeles's jazz incubator, the Blue Whale, to sold-out crowds. With a fifteen-piece ensemble, which includes first-call horns like Bob Sheppard, Bijon Watson, Rashawn Ross, Beasley conducted the band with an improviser's eye--free flowing and open to solos that add to the narrative. Since that casual debut in 2013, the band has become a fixture on the scene, performing at Disney Hall, Jazz Standard, Ford Amphitheatre, SFJAZZ twice and most recently at the Playboy Jazz Festival held at the world famous Hollywood Bowl.

"I don't play a lot of piano in the band," Beasley says about his role. "The band is my piano. It gives me the opportunity to change the music on the spot by conducting. I can cut everybody out and have myself play or I could change the order of the solos. Whoever is hot that night, I can keep throwing it their way."

Through a lens influenced by Thad Jones, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock and Aaron Copland, Beasley found a compositional openness in Monk's music that encouraged him to discover the right combination of freedom and restraint, coaxing the very best from the ensemble.

"Jimmy Heath once told me that all the good stuff is already built into Monk. The tunes are built to swing. The sound he got out of the piano, the way he played the piano, the voicings he used, the wild intervals. His groove was so strong." And Beasley is no stranger to strong grooves. "The sign of a great composer--like Gershwin, Ellington, Wayne Shorter, or Stevie Wonder--is that you can play their tunes at any tempo and change the structure if you like. Bach sounds incredible at any tempo. So does Monk. His tunes are a living and breathing organism."

Opening track "Epistrophy" was Beasley's first attempt at a large-scale Monk arrangement and he tackles the angular tune with an elongated sense of time, controlling each breath with unwavering patience. Vibraphonist Gary Burton shines during a shimmering guest spot. "What a virtuoso," says Beasley. "One take, boom! He just nailed it."

Beasley pulls from two very different worlds for "Skippy" simultaneously evoking the Jaco Pastorius and Jimmie Lunceford big bands. Sheppard is in top form on the twisting chart, unfurling a crisp soprano saxophone over the controlled chaos of riffs and handclaps. Beasley infuses a literal electricity for "Oska T" and a trio version of "'Round Midnight." The band conjures a sinister swagger, generating a buzzing hive for trumpeters Gabriel Johnson and Brian Swartz to cut loose while the trio embraces the pliability of Monk's greatest known composition with a contemporary bend.

During a visit to New Orleans, Beasley was inspired to fuse multiple Monk riffs to create "Monk's Processional," a brief second-line celebration imbued with southern charm and spirit. A crowd favorite, the performance strikes just the right tone of playful reverence.

On the densely shifting moves on "Ask Me Now," harmonica player Grégoire Maret guests with support from Tom Peterson and Tom Luer's spooky bass clarinet duo. The unusual instrumentation helps to push the languid stroll into another world. Two tunes embrace the footwork essential to Monk's greatest ideas. Beasley envisions a soft-shoe routine for a bouncing "Gallop's Gallop." "Little Rootie Tootie" picks up a partner, embracing the cha-cha amid the funky refrains and growling support of the brass. The band closes out with "Coming on the Hudson," making deliberate steps amid the arrangements delicate flourishes and steady push from the endlessly creative drummer Terreon Gully.

As the name of the album implies, this is only the beginning for Beasley's large-scale exploration of the High Priest of Bebop. The band's introduction is an undeniable statement from a great new voice in big band arranging and a testament to the timelessness of Monk's music.

"We all know that Monk's music is strong on his own," says Beasley. "What's even more amazing is how much room there is to keep his music alive. The songs are a living and breathing organism. It can keep changing with the times. Maybe we're even catching up to his time."

Born in Louisiana, Beasley started writing arrangements in junior high school, which sparked the attention of Jimmy Lyons--the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival--who recommended him for a scholarship at the Stan Kenton summer jazz camp. The pianist cut his teeth with Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard in the 1980s and has since performed and recorded with a who's who of artists including James Brown, Marcus Miller, Chaka Khan, Christian McBride, Steely Dan, Dianne Reeves, Sergio Mendes, Carly Simon, John Patitucci, Al Jarreau, Kelly Clarkson, George Duke, John Legend, Chick Corea, Destiny's Child and Queen Latifah, among others.

Living in Hollywood, Beasley juggled a touring musician's schedule while working in studios composing for award-winning television sitcoms and commercials including Cheers, Family Ties, Star Trek and Fame, to name a few. He has worked with multiple Oscar-nominated film composer Thomas Newman for three decades on credits including James Bond Spectre and Skyfall, Get On Up: James Brown, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I & II, Finding Nemo & Finding Dory, Wall-E, Shawshank Redemption and more.

While touring with Miles Davis, Beasley was inspired to make his first of eleven recordings, Cauldron--which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan-and went on to earn a GRAMMY® Award-nomination for his 2011 release Positootly. He has since served as musical director for the Monk Institute's gala concerts since 2011, guiding legends and the next generation of jazz greats through all-star tributes to Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, George Duke and Aretha Franklin. He has also served this role for International Jazz Day since 2012, notably at the White House's 2016 blowout bash. Under the global eye, he seamlessly shaped the televised concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Wayne Shorter, Joey Alexander and Sting through a night of swing and celebration. Since 2005, Beasley has worked as Lead Arranger for American Idol until its final season in 2016, and ushered the twelve female finalists of 2005 (including Carrie Underwood) by coaching and rehearsing them as well as selecting and arranging songs.

John Beasley · presents MONK'estra, Volume 1
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: August 19, 2016


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